Marine Mammal Trainers from the Long Island Aquarium

sealsmtrainerssmmmMarine mammal trainers from the Long Island Aquarium are thrilled to announce that two team members will be traveling to California to the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI) to assist with the ongoing California Sea Lion stranding crisis.
For the past three years, biologists have noticed an increase in sea lion pup strandings resulting in malnourished, exhausted and dehydrated sea lion pups on California beaches. Scientists believe this is happening because their food sources are moving to cooler waters further off the coast, their nursing mothers are unable to feed on good quality fish and produce adequate milk, thus resulting in premature weaning. The pups are too young to sufficiently fend for themselves and wind up on shore and in need of serious help. Fortunately organizations such as CIMWI can provide the help these pups need, but they need additional resources as well. The Long Island Aquarium is ready to send some helping hands with two senior marine mammal trainers.
On April 11, Nicole Izzo MacDonald headed west to offer her help caring for these rescued pups. “I’m so incredibly excited to have the opportunity to give back to an animal species that has taught me so much. Sea lions are the animal that led me to my career, my passion, and the peril that they are facing has motivated me to further educate my friends, family, and the public about them and the issues they face.”
MacDonald was part of the transport team who traveled to Santa Barbara two years ago to received Nila, a pup who had been rescued and deemed unreleasable. Nila is now a thriving two year old and part of the Long Island Aquarium’s Sea Lion family, along with their two 14 year old pinnipeds, Java and Bunker. MacDonald said “Nila, our rescued sea lion from CIMWI, has been the perfect animal ambassador in New York to represent her wild counterparts. Being able to aid CIMWI, Nila’s own rescue facility, in this crisis is so amazing. I feel as though I owe it to CIMWI to help as much as I can as they have helped save over a hundred sea lions this year alone. Their dedication is inspiring. Their level of care is inspiring. CIMWI is truly a port in the storm for these animals and I can only hope to help them as much as they have helped these animals I love so much.”
Jenna Mercurio offered her help and traveled to CIMWI on April 18. In anticipation of her visit she stated “By educating the public through our presentations I am able to indirectly help their species’ survival by informing the public about their biology, status and issues surrounding the species. I am extremely grateful to now be given the opportunity to directly support and help CIMWI by volunteering my time and experience to aid in their rescue and rehab efforts of the animals in their care. It’s amazing to be able to work with Nila, a rescued animal from this horrible crisis, and even more incredible that I can now directly help the cause and the facility that has done such amazing work!”
Biologists agree that this year’s El Nino status has added to the existing stranding crisis. Sea lion mothers have to travel farther to find sardines and anchovies and their pups are going several days without feeding. The pups become dehydrated and their conditions deteriorate rapidly. Although the El Nino season is ending, they don’t anticipate this crisis ending soon. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said “we expect repeated years with malnourished and starving sea lion pups.” Fortunately organizations like CIMWI are there to help and can count on assistance from marine mammal caretakers like MacDonald and Mercurio. To find out how you can help CIMWI, check out their website at: www.cimwi.org. To help marine animals here on the east coast go to www.riverheadfoundation.org.
About Long Island Aquarium
This privately-owned aquarium features one of the largest all-living coral reef displays in this hemisphere, a 120,000-gallon shark tank, year-round sea lion shows, numerous touch tanks, butterflies from all over the world, and more than 100 exhibits and interactive experiences, including Butterflies, Bugs& Birds, Shark Dive, Penguin Encounter, Pirate Snorkel, Shark Keeper, and more! Located in Riverhead, on the east end of Long Island, guests are encouraged to learn about what lives within the local waters, with exhibits showcasing local flora and fauna, as well as exotic, tropical displays.
Named a Top 10 Aquarium for Children by Parents Magazine, Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center is open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. year-round (Closed Christmas & Thanksgiving Days). You can add to the fun with an overnight stay at the waterfront Hyatt Place Long Island/East End located adjacent to the Aquarium property. For more information, please visit www.LongIslandAquarium.com.

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